Content Notice: This post contains information about suicide. If you’re dealing with suicidal thoughts or find yourself in a crisis situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the United States) at 1-800-273-8255.
Lyme disease is a complex of infections transmitted by the bite of a tick that can cause, among other things, debilitating muscle and joint pain. Pain that does not go away can make you desperate like nothing else will. Trying to find treatment can be frustrating at best and deadly at worst. Following are some important things to know when dealing with chronic pain.
Coping with Chronic Pain
1. See a pain management specialist. The right physician is key to finding good pain control. Most physicians are now referring patients with pain to specialists at pain management clinics. The treatment of chronic pain has become a specialty in its own right, as chronic pain can be very difficult to treat and can cause its own set of problems. Although a physician doesn’t necessarily have to understand chronic Lyme disease to be helpful, the important thing is finding a person who agrees with your own philosophy of pain management. But be wary of switching doctors frequently as it is to your benefit to have an established relationship with one doctor who can manage your pain. If you can’t find a doctor, ask for recommendations from other patients in the Lyme disease community with whom they’ve had a good experience.
2. You have options. There are many different treatment modalities for managing pain. Most people think only of narcotic medication. Narcotics can indeed be a very effective way to treat pain, but they are most effective for short-term pain. Long-term, chronic pain gets a little tricky, but it is not impossible to treat. Some of the other treatment options for managing pain include:
- Physical or occupational therapy
- Exercise as tolerated
- Supplements and other natural remedies for pain
- Massage therapy
- Topical agents
- Electrical stimulation
- Anti-seizure medications
- spinal injections
- Chiropractic care
- Anti-inflammatories and non-narcotic analgesic medications, such as acetaminophen
- Cbd oil
- Medical cannabis
Typically, treating chronic pain successfully usually requires a combination of these modalities.
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3. Consider supplementing pain medications with other therapies. While pills are usually the first method of pain management we want to try, they may not be the best choice. There are always side effects that accompany the benefits of pills. Many of them are minor but some of them can be devastating over time, like kidney or liver damage. It is important to know what medicines you are taking and what side effects and drug interactions can occur if certain pills are combined — especially if you’re taking medications for Lyme disease treatment as well. If you need pills for pain relief, sometimes interventions such as stretching, exercise, cold or hot compresses, aromatherapy, or warm baths can reduce the amount of medicine you need. Exploring these options for reducing pain may be very beneficial for reducing the overall amount of medicine you need to control pain.
4. Look into cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, (CBT) a form of mental health therapy, can be effective in helping you to manage chronic pain. Mental health counselors can help you find coping methods and can help you work through marital or family stress caused by the effects of chronic illness, and help you manage daily stress that may be contributing to your pain, among many other things. Don’t be afraid to consider this form of pain management.
5. Have a support system. Many people with chronic pain consider suicide. Often, they don’t want to end their lives but just desperately want relief from the circumstances, ongoing pain, and persistent Lyme disease symptoms. Finding the right resources and having a support system can make a big difference when you are trying to treat and cope with pain. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others who might be able to provide encouragement and support. For help in a crisis situation, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the United States) at 1-800-273-8255.
6. Watch for new developments on the horizon. One new form of therapy is based on the findings that our brains have neural pathways that form when certain activities are performed by our nervous system repeatedly. It was once thought that these neural pathways were unchangeable, but modern medicine has discovered that these pathways are indeed changeable, and refer to this phenomenon as “neuroplasticity.” This field of medicine has had great successes in rehabilitative medicine and is definitely an area of medicine to look out for, for future advances in pain management. One such tool to consider is Dynamic Neural Retraining (DNRS), which might be beneficial to some Lyme patients battling chronic pain.
Treating chronic pain can be frustrating, but don’t give up hope. There are many different resources available to you. Use every resource and as many different treatment modalities as you can to help in managing your pain. While the pain may not go away completely, it can be made more tolerable so that you can still have the life you want.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on November 9, 2015 and was updated on November 16, 2019.
Laurie Miller, RN BSN MS, is an author, nurse, wife, and mom who has lived with chronic pain and illness for 9 years. She enjoys reading, spending time with family, and blogging at God-Living with Chronic Illness.